Since starting my rum voyage, I’ve been on a mission to discover different types of rum and a variety that immediately came onto my radar was rhum agricole. A distinctive French style, rhum agricole comes from Martinique and differs from other rum in that it’s made primarily with sugarcane juice rather than molasses.
For my first Martinique rhum I’ve chosen Rhum J.M Blanc, a vegetal white rhum with a peppery kick.
The story of Rhum JM begins in the 17th century, when the famous Jesuit priest Pere Labat was the parish priest of Macouba and operated a sugar refinery at his house on the Roche River. A man named Antoine Leroux-Preville bought Labat’s land in 1790, calling his new plantation Habitation Fonds-Preville.
In 1845, Preville’s daughters sold the plantation to a merchant from Saint-Pierre called Jean-Marie Martin. A shrewd businessman, Martin recognised the high-quality sugarcane on the estate and devoted his time to growing the finest sugarcane empire in Martinique. He built a distillery and branded his initials ‘J.M’ into the first oak barrels used to mature his rum. So, the legend was born.
Terroir is the star of the show in the production of Rhum J.M. Blanc. Crafted at the Bellevue distillery at the foot of Mount Pelee, the rhum is produced in a unique micro-climate that gives the drink its distinctive taste.
The sugarcane absorbs the volcanic qualities of the soil it’s grown in and is left to ferment for between 36 – 48 hours. Next, it’s distilled in a Creole copper column still to 70% ABV and aged in American charred oak and French Limousin oak barrels for three to five years. Volcanic mineral water sourced from the estate is added to bring the rum down to 50%.
The bottle has an old world feeling to it, with a hand-drawn picture of the distillery next to the sea. It conjures a classic, tropical image, made even stronger by the men lounging and sipping their rhum on a beautiful day.
There’s a lot of complexity going on in Rhum J.M Blanc and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. A vegetal, fruity aroma rises out of the botte and punches you in the mouth on the first sip. Notes of spring onions, chilli, black pepper and ginger spiral in a tornado of heat.
The overpowering grassiness of the rhum stops it from being a sipping drink. Where it comes into its own is as a mixer in coke or a cocktail like a Mai Thai. I found the peppery finish went well with coke and it’s inspired me to try some more rhum agricole in the future.
Variety: Rhum agricole
Nose: Spring onion, mushroom, strawberry
Mouthfeel: Black pepper, ginger, chilli, oregano